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ST. CLEMENT HUSTINGS: "Can you hear me at the back?"

ST. CLEMENT HUSTINGS:

Friday 10 June 2022

ST. CLEMENT HUSTINGS: "Can you hear me at the back?"

Friday 10 June 2022


And so to St Clement. In previous elections we would be writing that the 'election roadshow' arrived in the Parish...except of course this year, there isn't one.

Like an electoral Hunger Games, Election 2022 is all about districts, with each one putting forward its selection of 'champions' for voters to hunt to the death (just wait for the first five-day States sitting) across the timelines of social media, online meetings and hustings.

Of course, the great election levelling-up (2022-vintage) will give St. Clement 10% of the new States Assembly (something which seemed to energise the candidates more than the voters last night) while also being guaranteed to leave St. Mary without a single Deputy who lives in the Parish. 

But that's for later. Last night, the spotlight lit up St. Clement, billed in advance as a noble joust between the honourable Knights of the Parties Progress/JLC and Alliance. In the end it turned out to be a far more genteel affair (lots of "I agree with Sir Mark/Philip"), perhaps more like two retired grandees enjoying the sunshine and pouring each other glasses of warm, frothy scrumpy at the village fayre, than a fight to the death over their vision for Jersey, post-pandemic. 

On last night's evidence, this certainly wasn't an early skirmish in a forthcoming battle for the Chief Minister's job - much more of a foamy war than a phoney one. Perhaps what is fast becoming a petty and mundane election will still spark into life and surprise us. 

St Clement 2022 Hustings

Pictured: 150 packed the Parish Hall, with some standing outside.

In St. Clement, it began with the pre-event seating vote putting the two Knights at opposite ends of the table (one labelled 'Sir Mark' and the other, in a bout of unwitting egalitarianism, just plain 'Philip'), book-ending two nurses, two sets of facial hair...and Lindsay Ash, who at one point even referred to himself simply as 'Lash'.

In the audience, it was like every election ever: a packed Parish Hall (about 150 people), nearly all drawn from the more experienced echelons of Parish life, a sprinkling of former, and soon-to-stand-down, politicians, with Mike Dun in the front row filming it all for his blog, and Neil McMurray standing at the back in his anti-BBC t-shirt. 

The magnificent seven each gave their five minute address. The two Knights of the long, straight table both admitted that neither actually lived in the Parish - with Sir Mark (Alliance) saying he "never really left Jersey" before detailing his career in London, and Sir Philip (Progress / JLC) promising to be "a good St. Clementais," before drawing one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night with his criticism of the burgeoning size of the public sector, the failure of the 'One Gov' reforms and the cost of the new hospital. 

In doing so, he drew out what already clearly becoming the defining issues of this campaign, along with the cost of housing (for young families) and the cost of living more generally. Each District, similar story....almost 'island-wide', you might say. 

The hospital led us into the first of 12 (if you include the one disallowed from Neil McMurray) questions, with Lindsay Ash (Alliance), one of the political steering group for the project, admitting he thought Overdale was the wrong place to build it (People's Park would have been better, he said); but warning that if we backed out now, we won't find anyone to do the work, and we will be competing with the NHS building program - no one clapped. 

And so the questions took us through the lack of affordable housing, the need to improve adult mental health care, the over-reliance on expensive UK consultants, population growth (spoiler: according to Lindsay Ash, it is now falling) to putting solar panels on new build properties. 

Interestingly, in an election - not quite - dominated by party politics, it was the Reform candidate, Ken Addison, who always remembered to reference his party's policy on any issue, giving a "we" view, rather than his own; the other party representatives weren't quite so diligent. Except on this issue of solar panels when his suggestion of installing them all across the roof of Fort Regent, and on the towers at La Collette, may have prompted a sharp intake of breath at Party HQ. 

St Clement 2022 Hustings

Pictured: the full group of St. Clement candidates standing in 2022. 

Alex Curtis (Independent) was on firm ground when the candidates were asked if they would live in a town flat with no parking - he does already, so he was able to move quickly on to talk about a better sustainable transport network, the tech options for car sharing and the need to help young people onto the housing ladder in their home Parish. 

And then came the biggest round of applause for the night, not for the candidates, but the for the questioner who asked if they would support a return of the island-wide mandate.

For the record, only Karen Wilson (Independent) and Barbara Ward (Independent) clearly said they would. Candidates Addison and Curtis championed the improved voter equity in the new system, Bailhache and Boleat would have a review, and Ash made a joke about a chap in St Mary.

A few minutes before 21:00, Revd. Canon David Shaw brought matters to a close.

Despite a totally new system, St. Clement proved that elections in Jersey are still reassuringly familiar. Despite the parties, the new districts and the mysterious appearance of NOTA on some of the ballot papers - the same issues, questions and characters are all back for another round. The key question is really if more people choose to use their vote on 22 June. 

Candidates in St Clement are: Sir Mark Boleat & Lindsay Ash (Alliance), Ken Addison (Reform), Sir Philip Bailhache (JLC / Progress) and Barbara Ward, Karen Wilson, Alex Curtis (Independent). 

WATCH...

MORE HUSTINGS...

ST. JOHN, ST. LAWRENCE, TRINITY: “I prefer not to use the mic"

ST. HELIER CENTRAL: “Forgive me, I am the new boy”

ST. HELIER SOUTH: A quiet 'night out' with the candidates

ST. BRELADE: Parker, pensioners and proper parties

GROUVILLE AND ST. MARTIN: Pantomime cards, cruise ships and solar-powered tractors

ST. SAVIOUR: Faith, Five Oaks and counting to five in feisty first meet

LISTEN...

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